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When did Classical music peak?

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I voted 1950 -- the year I was born -- but can tell you the peak of classical music in my lifetime occurred after that probably between 1965-90. I chose the end date because that's the year Bernstein died, a year after Karajan died. When those two were alive the world of classical music was much different than today. The biggest difference is it was far more represented on TV and in popular culture than today. I saw Karajan conduct opera on Public Broadcasting, PBS also once broadcast an entire Ring cycle on American TV on four consecutive nights, and Bernstein famously led the Young People's Concerts on American TV. In the early days of cable TV through 1990 channels like A&E and Ovation regularly scheduled classical music programming.

Today, in the Internet dominated world of the 21st century, this is all gone. PBS may program a little classical music but virtually no other TV channel does so. I know the world has gone to streaming and perhaps there are streamed outlets people turn to. But if so people do not turn to them in large numbers.

I think Bernstein and Karajan were the last "name brands" you might say that existed for classical music. The only things of consequence that have arrived since them was the period performance practice movement -- which the average listener doesn't give a hoot about -- and the The Three Tenors, a big hit in the early 1990s. The only worldwide musical hits since then have been Gorecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Adams' Doctor Atomic opera, and ... what else? It's hard for me to name a single person active in classical music a person that likes music might know. Just about everyone knew James Galway in his heyday.

I think the irony of today's reality is so great because, as classical music has declined from what might be called public view, there is more of it around the world, played better, and millions more classical music lovers. Today even a local orchestra made up of students and retirees who pay to play are good enough to schedule a Mozart or Mendelssohn symphony. I read in a classical music journal yesterday a review of a Mahler recording by the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Symphony Orchestra so good the reviewer favorably compared it to historic recordings by big name European orchestras.

We live in a world where standards and practices are better than ever before everywhere but ironically in a world when the art form itself has disappeared from public view, in my opinion because there are no longer living composers whose work is so great it creates new fans overnight. Today, if you're not a fan of classical music and don't seek it out, it's not coming to find you. That is a big difference in the world in 2022 compared to the world I knew decades ago.
I would agree wholeheartedly with this. Certainly when I was younger during the 60s and 70s the record companies were making huge numbers of classical albums the CDs of which we see in charity stores today. But there was also classical music on the television for the general public with things like André Previn‘s music night, at a time when the BBC in Britain were actually interested in promoting culture rather than chasing ratings. They are actually re-broadcasting some of these programs at the moment so there might be a glimmer of light in the darkness that the present bunch in charge are waking up.
 

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But a smaller percentage of the public actual listen to any Classical Music than 25 or 50 years ago even though the opportunities to do so with streaming today are almost limitless.
50 years ago programmes about Classical Music appeared on major TV channels. Classical Music was used on lots of TV advertisements. Film music was usually in a Classical Style. Stravinsky was a household name amongst the middle classes in the 1960s: up there with Picasso. Nowadays the average member of the middle class would struggle to name any twentieth century composers let alone a living one.
Totally disagree.

35% of the (adult) population listens to classical music.

The proms get more coverage on the BBC Tv & radio than before. I was able to watch La Boheme over breakfast whilst watching Sky Arts.

I've just returned from the cinema having watched Lucia da Lammamore being broadcast an ocean away from the Met.

My pal in Dundee tells me the cinema where he works is packed out for every opera they show. There is no opera house nearby, so folks are arranging coach trips to see the operas at the cinema. The cinema broadcasts have made opeara more accessible than ever before.

Films still have classical scores - James Bond, The Green Knight, the recent clutch of Star Wars, the new Harry Potter series and Jurassic Park have classical scores. The "synth scores" of the 80's and 90's seem to have largely fallen away.

Maybe it depends upon what part of the world you are in, but classical music is in rude health in the UK.
 

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It's not my favorite period but if one wants to entertain Spenglerian "rise and decline" I'd put the peak around 1900.
Spengler would have disagreed and put, I believe, the music peak in the 18th century with Bach and Mozart (they don't overlap temporally, I guess it would have to be a broad peak ca. 1720-90). It's not totally incompatible with the 19th century as "hellenistic" period after the "classical" as "hellenistic" periods are often in some ways as fecund and more diverse/interesting than "classical" ones
I'd also take into account that around 1900 we not only have still important and broadly received and relevant new compositions but the establishment of repertoire, including a canon of older works also only came to pass in the late 19th century.
Also, if one goes for these kinds of periodization, that there are phases of "archaic" or "decadent" art doesn't mean that the art of these phases is bad or incompentent.
 

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Define "peak" first.
E.g., ...
Total number of classical fans (active ,daily listeners, e.g .via radio, steaming CD, LP). It will have been greatest in the past 50 years.
Total number of classical composers (active ,daily composers). Not sure.
Etc.
 

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Neither. Sheer numbers, even percentages don't mean much. Quality and societal impact of classical music, and mostly of new compositions. When Mahler's 8th was premiered in 1910 you have dozens of other musicians and writers (like Th. Mann) attending. It was the cultural and societal sensation of the year. Can you imagine such a situation with the newest piece by Jörg Widmann or Wolfgang Rihm today?
CM was at the center of European culture in the 19th (and 18th and early 20th century). This is obviously not the case anymore, despite more people actually listening to it because of mass media.
 

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The point is when we talk about ‘classical music’ we mean the classical music spread over the centuries which Is listened to today, to which there are millions of listeners. If it is just the modern stuff which is produced today then there is a very small percentage of the population listening to it unless you include people like John Williams
 

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Not that there the greatest composers but I'd say the Brahms/Schumann/Berlioz era, the height of the symphony before music became so grand it was excessive.
 
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